Saturday, January 8, 2011

Another Close Call

We had another close call this week.
A more scary situation involving an animal, instead of a machine.

Al and I got home rather late on Thursday: I had a late meeting, and then we still had groceries to pick up. So I asked Al to feed while I got a quicky frozen dinner going. I had barely gotten stroganof in the microwave and noodles in the pan boiling when the intercom from the barn rang. (I love that non-horsey-hubby is attuned enough that if something doesn't look right, he will immediately check in with me. Al was the one who found Corky down two winters ago.)

Tonight, it was Kate.
"She was down when I came out, then got up, but is down again."
"Is she rolling when she's down?"
"A little, but not really."
"I'll be right out."

By the time I got out there, Kate had been up and down again one more time. I put her halter on her and started walking around the paddock. After ten minutes or so, for a break, I led her into the stall and tried taking her temperature--she stomped and made a slightly more serious threat to kick--not usual Kate behavior--so I could tell she was definitely uncomfortable. Thermometer went up quickly to the mid-90s, then slowed, then as it gradually topped 100, she pulled away; but I was pretty sure it wasn't going much higher--100 is okay. If anything, she seemed a little chilled from lying on the snow, so I threw a turnout on her. Timed her respirations, but they were pretty relaxed and within normal range. I can never get heart rate, not find a pulse anywhere or using a stethoscope (not even when I was doing P&Rs for competitive trail rides). Tried listening for gut sounds, but every time I put my one "good" ear to her side, the hearing aid that makes that ear good would squawk. Without the hearing aid, I couldn't hear anything, but I wasn't sure if that was her stomach that was silent, or my ear just not hearing.
I gave her a gram of bute, and we went back to walking.

I gave the bute a half hour or so to ease things up a bit, but she was still not interested in eating (not normal for Kate!) or drinking. She did drop one fairly normal looking pile o' poop, when I stopped at the trough to offer her a drink. She also continued wanting to go down. The one time she managed to hit the ground, she did just lay there for a minute or two. When she started to roll, it was only halfheartedly, but I used the motion to get her back up again. It was now 8:30. I decided it was time to call the vet. (In the meantime, Al had finished feeding and started mucking--first in the foaling stall, so I could put Kate in the roomier environs for the night, if need be.)

I lucked out and got Dr. Mark Hayden, of Valley Vet Clinic--we've worked with him since we moved to the valley 12 years ago. Dr. Mark would be my first choice of who I'd ask to work with from the two clinics that share after hours on-call duties.
We both know that winter is prime time for impaction colic. He worked with me for three days to try to save Corky, and we had a mild scare with Misty one winter (when she was heavy in foal with Maddie).
Dr. Mark asked if she had been passing gas, and I realized I hadn't noticed that she had. He wondered about maybe gas colic, as opposed to impaction. Her low level of pain seemed to rule out a twisted intestine.
He felt like I should bring her in, just to be cautious. It would take me a few minutes to hook up the trailer and a while to see if I could get it out of the spot it was in--I hadn't plowed it out after the last snowstorm. Then it would take 30-40 minutes to get to town. I was to call him when we got about 10 miles out. (I ended up stopping at a convenience store at the freeway--my emergency-only cell phone was dead as a door knob when I tried to use it!)

Now, Kate picked a relatively good evening to get sick: The deep freeze we were having last week had finally broken, and Wednesday the temps actually got above freezing, so the roads were fairly passable--just some icy patches in the shaded areas. And even as we got hooked up, the temps were a balmy 28F, so I could feel my hands, and my brain was actually functioning.
First glitch with the trailer: it was sitting in a "hole" of bare ground, and the backing-up truck was on 3-4 inches of packed snow--the hitch was too low for the receiver. Pull the truck forward and bring out the now-warmer-weather-happy tractor and scrape the snowpack outta the way. I decided not to plow the 150 feet or so of barn driveway, but once hitched up, we put the Jimmy in low-low 4 wheel drive, and the rig chugged it's way to the house driveway.
Al ran in the house for my pocketbook and glasses, while I loaded Kate.
I debated leaving her loose in the back, in case she needed to go down, but didn't want to take the chance of her getting stuck in there. Besides, she already seemed to be feeling a bit better--the pawing she did while we were hooking up the trailer was more an impatient, pay attention to me pawing, than pain. So I closed the divider, and we were on our way.

There are some that say that a trailer ride will sometimes relieve a mild case of colic (it worked for my son when he was a baby--car ride, not horse trailer), and whether it was that or the bute, by the time we got to the clinic, Kate was visibly more comfortable. She hadn't pooped in the trailer on the way in (as we all know they always do as soon as they're in), but temp was 100.2, respiration and heart rate well within normal range (that's why Dr. Mark went to vet school!). Gut sounds were good in all quadrants, so he decided it was indeed a bad case of gas.
As a precaution, he went ahead and gave her a bit of sedative and tubed her with 5-6 gallons of water and a little mineral oil. He was going to send some Banamine home with me, as it is easier on their stomachs than the bute (which makes sense, since it's their tummies that are upset, why add an irritant to that?), but by the time we got done it was close to 11:00 PM, and he had just gotten another emergency call, so we both spaced it (I did pick some up the next day, to have on hand). I loaded the slightly groggy Kate into the trailer and we headed home.

Prescription: no hay for tonight, but a little soggy senior mush (Thanks, RT!). If she's feeling better in the morning, a little bit more mush and a little hay. I am monitoring her water intake, which is fairly easy because Kate doesn't share her trough with anyone else--it would be harder at the back of the barn, where Maddie, Beth and RT all share a 100 gallon tank. Continue making salt available, both in block form, and I always add a generous pinch of loose white salt to everybody's supplements in the evening. Check her in the morning and call, if needed.

I left the trailer hooked up, in case we needed to go back in the morning, but Kate appeared to be much better! She wanted to know:
That's a good sign that she's back to normal.
My trail-riding friend Pat from just down the road agreed to give her a little more food at lunch time (the other horses were feeling neglected when that happened), and reported that again, Kate was ravenous and looked fine.

So, all-in-all, it was a very long evening, and a very short night, but things worked out okay. We had the stroganof Friday night. I slept in 'til 8:00 this morning.

Lessons I learned:
  • Keep Banamine on hand.
  • Always have your trailer where you can get to it, and get it out.
  • Keep your cell phone charged.
  • Appreciate your dedicated and experienced vet.
  • Appreciate all the help your non-horsey significant other is willing to extend to you out of love.
For all his tolerance of me and my horsies, I have no problems with Al's chosen pastime: photography. He got a new Nikon for Christmas, and he's been carting it around with him everywhere (including shooting out the window this morning in his birthday suit). He caught this hawk over the valley on his way home yesterday.

A couple of cropped shots.
Thank you, Dr. Mark.
Thank you, weather gods.
Thank you, and I love you, Al.


  1. Jeez, I'm glad she's OK. They sure do know how to scare you though. Spokane is now an ice skating rink after the big thaw yesterday!

  2. Glad she's OK - we get those gas colics with some of the horses with big weather/pressure changes sometimes.

  3. Whew! Crazy, chaotic, stressful and worrisome. Good to read that Kate's ok, though. And you did learn some useful lessons, too.
    Reminds me that we need to move our horse trailer down the hill from the barn and in the back of the house, because as it is now, and for most of the winter when we have snow or ice, it's basically stuck because of how steep that hill is.

    Cool hawk shots....TMI in Al's birthday suit, though. hee hee!


  4. Ooooh, scary. I'm glad she's okay!

    Did you vet ask you to do "belly lifts" when you were suspecting gas colic?

    I tend to think that some of Linda Tellington Jones' stuff is snake oil, but some of it DOES work, including the "shock points" massage (which includes acupuncture release sites) and the belly lifts for gassy belly. Be gentle at first, and then more vigorous if the horse doesn't object.

  5. How scary! Glad she's ok now. (Gorgeous hawk, too!)

  6. I absolutely hate nights/days/mornings/anytime like you had last night. Glad it all worked out well with minimal intervention in the end! I joke that I keep a pharmacy on hand; SMZ's, bute, banamine, dex, couple of different tranqs, equioxx, eye meds, couple of tubes of ulcer guard, and that is just what I think of off of the top of my head. I'd rather have it and not need it than need it and not have it!

    By the way the hawk photo is really beautiful.

  7. Wow, well told - and makes me appreciate having dogs and a van rather than horses and a trailer. For some reason, I always thought farm vets came to the farm - never thought of having to rush a horse to the e-vet on a dark wintery night! I must have been reading too much James Herriot.

  8. I'm glad to hear she's okay. That was a long night. I remember many a day/night walking gas colics around and around and it's scary.

    Your hubby sounds like a great guy and he took some really nice pics of the hawk. It's nice he's enjoying his new camera even in his chilly morning condition.

  9. Wow thats pretty scary! Glad she is okay and you learned something so the rest of us will be prepared.
    The hawk shots are awesome, so clear!

  10. The first thing I thought of when you wrote you were going to him was the awful weather we'd been having. Glad it was during a break from that bad stuff. Just the thought of pulling a sick horse in those conditions makes my gut ache.

    Glad she's doing better. I hate those scary kind of nights.

  11. So-o-o-o stressful! I remember, in my one and only year of stable work, walking a horse called Don Carey all night long, terrified he wasn't going to make it. He did, but I understood then how fragile horses can be. I'm very happy that things worked out as they did! Also glad that Al is having so much fun with his camera! Great shot of the hawk. Do you think it could be a Rough-Legged Hawk?